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 “After Valley” highlights select Valley Christian alumni of all ages, from our first graduating class of 1986 to our most recent graduates.

Denae (Templeton) Downs ’03

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This “After Valley” profile was originally posted in September 2016.

What did you do after Valley? Where did your life take you? 

After Valley, I did 2 years at MCC, followed by 2 years at Calvary Chapel Bible College [CCBC] in CA and then interned for the CCBC A/V department for 1 year. Here, my relationship with the Lord grew immensely in depth and was translated to all aspects of life. It really set me up for living… meaning that instead of Christianity being- “I attend church on Sunday” or “I let others know I’m a Christian as I sail myself through life,” a relationship with Christ and Him speaking to me through that relationship became the rudder that determined the course of my ship.

Through CCBC, I met a family serving as missionaries in London, England-they asked me to be their worship leader so I moved to London for 3 months with plans to stay longer but God directed otherwise.
After London I went back to MCC and began my prerequisites for a music degree. During my schooling I began getting requests to lead worship or play concerts all over the US and Europe. These were becoming so frequent that I was forced to choose between school and doing music full time. Because the doors were already open for music and I was indecisive about a major, I decided to travel and play music full time, continuing down this path for several years.

I was invited to Italy to play an outreach concert and this missionary named David Downs was my contact person for that church. He was organizing all the details of my arrival and stay etc. so I was in contact with him the months leading up to my stay there. When arriving in Venice, we spent time in person for the first time. The night I played the concert, he told a man from the church that he was going to marry me and later that week asked me to be his girlfriend.

Long story short, 3 years of Skype later [I continued traveling and doing music all over the world for this time], we got married and 1 month later, I moved to Italy to be a missionary alongside my husband.

And that brings us to now! We have been married for 2 years and are serving Jesus however He directs us that day… currently church planting in Ferrara, Italy – commonly known in Italy as “The City of Bicycles. 🙂

Tell us a little about your daily work:

One of the difficult things about this church planting, missionary lifestyle is that it changes daily. There is very little consistency. Where some people work at an office and leave work at the office, being a missionary is like: you can’t leave “work” anywhere because your job is your life.

But! I believe that as a Christian, we are all called to live a “missionary lifestyle” because what it really means is living your life [every single thing!] for Christ. So, that’s what I do!

In Italy, it’s all about relationships. People don’t “let you in” unless you’ve spent MUCH time pouring into a relationship. So, much of our time is spent doing this. It might look funny to others but -picking up people from the airport, giving them a ride to the doctor’s office, going out for coffee, for dinner, walking around the center of the city, inviting people over to your home, helping with household chores, running errands, going to the gym to meet people, etc. -are all opportunities to pour into relationships and we see these as ministry opportunities.

Our daily work ranges greatly. Leading worship and Bible studies to making videos, recording CDs, cleaning bathrooms, doing drywall work, doing graphic design, leading missions teams, opening our home up to whoever may be passing through, evangelizing, playing concerts, staying late at people’s houses as they ask question after question about God and the Bible, being a shoulder to cry on, counseling…

Right now my days are filled with meeting up with different women, getting to know them and pour into them. I am working with another missionary on an album set to be ready in December – all songs in English and Italian – with the hopes of stirring up the Italian Christians to think outside the box in creativity. I’m taking an Italian language course several days a week. There’s church on Sunday and Wednesday which means getting there early, setting up, getting everything ready, practicing for worship, making food, having the service, cleaning up afterwards, staying late until everything is done and everyone is gone.

All in all it’s just being available all of the time for the Lord to use me in others lives. It means not guarding my time as my own but being surrendered to what God might want to do… whatever that may be and no matter how far outside my comfort zone. 🙂

What’s one surprising thing we don’t know about you?

Haha. There were few things that I was adamant about in life and all growing up, I was pretty clear about what I wanted. What I was sure about: I did NOT want to be a Pastor’s wife or a missionary.

God certainly has a sense of humor!

While you were at VCHS, which teachers, coaches or classmates had the biggest impact on you?

I can’t list one specific thing…but I can list the things I remember that did impact me.

Dr. Dodrill was always kind.
Mr. Nelson’s love for math always struck me and I always marveled at how different God could make people and how special it was that he had this in him. Haha-coming from someone that celebrated with gusto and vowed she would NEVER return when her last math class was finished!
David Biederbeck’s love and passion for the Lord.
Mr. Kuiper was always cheerful and pleasant.
Mr. Carsten was always profound and intense. 
Mr. Cleckner always called flip-flops “thongs”… hehe, but I always genuinely sensed his deep care and love for the students. 
Mrs. Lynch was fun and silly and made class the same. 
Derek VonBarandy was sincere and not afraid to relinquish his ‘rights’ to follow the rules because he knew who he was and that his identity was in Christ and not in what he wore. 
Nathan Azad had turned from a crazy lifestyle to follow Christ-and he wasn’t afraid to be himself in Christ.

How do you stay connected with your friends from Valley and VCHS?

My mom is still a teacher at VCHS so I actually hear quite a bit about what’s going on there still through her!

My closest friends from Valley stay in contact through text or Facebook. Living so far away, this is really the only way to do it. I do like to have those closer friends over for a meal when I am back in AZ though 🙂

What’s one lasting memory you have of VCHS?

I was in a play about the holocaust my freshmen year. The fabulous, most fantastic directors ever, Mr. and Mrs. Templeton took so much time and effort pouring into the cast and teaching us about what it was like to live through such a horrific event. It struck me how lucky we are to be in such a privileged place in such a privileged time and it blessed me that they cared enough to make that known to us.

Another great memory is prayer meeting on Wednesday’s during lunch. Sometimes there would be so many people that all the chairs would be taken and the rest of us would cover the floor. It was sweet to see so many give up their lunch to spend time with the Lord and to hear their prayers.

Do you have any advice for current students? 

Enjoy your time and don’t waste it in stupid drama! [Not drama class! Don’t tell my mom I said that! Ha!]
If you let the drama of high school consume you, you rip yourself off from so much fun! 

And MORE importantly-take your relationship with Jesus seriously. I know you just want to have fun… but you’ve got to realize that the enemy rips you off from more than just fun when you allow him the room to do so. Following Jesus is an adventure. You might end up being a Bible teacher at Valley! …OR you might end up doing something insane like living in Italy, eating gelato and AMAZING food and making friends with people all day!

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